By Rob Schulz
In my sophomore year at The University of Texas, I had a marketing class in the UTC, an annex to the business school, tucked right next to the Perry Casteneda Library, or PCL. I remember walking to class past the huge PCL, with its high, modern, stark, angular walls that jut out at straight angles, some say, in the shape of our great state. On those cold, winter mornings, the concrete lines of that huge library would rise up and pierce the gray, overcast sky as if in defiance of the natural order of things.
Our professor was an older gentleman who had taken up teaching after a very successful entrepreneurial career. He was wise, and somehow my young immature self recognized this, so I regularly attended class and listened to what he had to say. One day, he began to draw squiggly lines on the overhead projector and said “This is your life and everything having to do with it: your career, your relationships, your energy level, faith, reputation, health, investment accounts…. all of it, and as you can see, there are no straight lines.”
Fast forward 35 years to a COVID-19 world and I think we can all clearly see his wisdom.
I don’t know what it is about human behavior, but we LOVE straight lines. We try to find straight lines in everything. We build buildings, furniture and roads in straight lines. We line up, organize and straighten just about everything in our lives in an effort to create order and predictability.
But the natural world actually has very few straight lines. Take a walk in nature and you will not see straight lines; mainly curves, a lot of complexity and very little predictability. Nature will surprise you, even shock you at times with beauty AND peril.
The year 2020 has been anything but straightforward and predictable. We have experienced unprecedented market lows, social injustice, protest, political upheaval and complete and utter disruption in the way we work and socialize. At times, it has felt like an uncontrollable freefall straight down.
But the curves of life go both ways. Amazingly now, in the very same year, the market has rebounded to record highs. Social and political change is happening peacefully, and not one but two viable COVID-19 vaccines are only months away from being approved for use.
A good reminder that the seasons always change, just as they did way back when.
I remember now as the semester went along my walks to class changed as winter turned to spring. I looked up one day and all of a sudden the sharp protruding point of the PCL is a soft white against a beautiful deep blue spring sky. Cumulus clouds infinitely build above and beyond the angular library, their towering, billowing, ever-changing shapes dominate as if to re-define order and beauty in a way I can only admire and never create or control.
Thankfully, nothing in life is a straight line.
Rob Schulz is a local Certified Financial Planner and author of “Thoughts on Things Financial: Your Guide to a Chaotic Money World.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can buy his book by clicking here: https://www.schulzwealth.com/book/
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